For most women, being pregnant is a wonderful experience that results in the delightful arrival of a new family member. However, pregnancy has its challenges, too, and being pregnant for up to 10 months requires many changes in lifestyle, diet and, towards the final trimester, just moving around while carrying an additional 11 to 40 pounds (5 to 18 kg). The goal is simple: to take care of yourself and stay healthy, because your baby is relying on you for nutrition and protection.
Expert advice for pregnant women
Everyone has advice for pregnant women and most first-time mothers have a lot of questions. Your doctor, your pharmacist, your friends and other mothers can be helpful, and having accurate information is extremely important.
Here are some expert recommendations for a healthy pregnancy:
- See your doctor regularly
- Take folic acid (400-800 micrograms daily)
- Eat a variety of healthy foods
- Make sure you get all essential nutrients, including iron (take supplements if necessary)
- Drink lots of water and other fluids
- Be as physically active as possible
- Watch your weight gain (too little or too much is not good)
- Wash your hands regularly to minimize infections
- Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night
- Control your stress levels and blood pressure, if necessary
- Get a flu shot
- Always wear a seatbelt, with the lap strap under your belly
Eating right when pregnant
Eating properly is a big part of staying healthy while pregnant. It is often said that you are “eating for two”, but that doesn’t mean eating twice as much. It does mean that you need more calories and some specific types of food to ensure that you and the baby are getting the right nutrients in the right amounts. For most women, this means adding 2 or 3 servings daily from Canada’s Food Guide with additional snacks, including milk or fortified soy beverages. Fruits and vegetables daily are a must.
During your pregnancy, avoid:
- Raw fish, especially oysters and clams
- Undercooked meat, hot dogs and smoked fish
- Any food made with raw or undercooked eggs
- Unpasteurized beverages, juices or cheese
- Raw sprouts, especially alfalfa sprouts
- Alcohol (there is no safe amount or safe time to drink while pregnant)
- Tobacco (it can decrease the amount of oxygen and nutrients going to the baby)
Staying active when pregnant
In the past, pregnant women were discouraged from too much physical exertion. Now we know better and pregnant mothers do fitness classes until the day they give birth! You and your doctor can determine how much physical activity is best, depending on how active you were before pregnancy and other factors.
Medical experts recommend daily activity to counter weight gain and keep your blood circulation and muscles in their best shape. Regular exercise can help minimize stress, promote better sleep and help with mood swings. For some women, it’s a way to both control their weight gain and improve their self-image. There’s no downside to exercise at any stage of life! Just be sure you don’t overdo it, and stay cool and hydrated. And enjoy a healthy pregnancy!